VR: Lat/Long of Internet Servers

Kenneth C. Jenks (kjenks@sd-www.jsc.nasa.gov)
Mon, 18 Jul 94 14:11:48 -0500

Apparently, there currently is no way to determine the longitude and
lattitude of a server on the Internet from its domain name. I would
like to see a simple client/server system which would allow a client to
determine the location of the server. This would facilitate VR and
other forms of image-related Internet browsing tools. In addition to
this lat/long client/server system, one could use SNMP data to
determine routing and one could use 'ping' to get a rough idea of
connection speed. Other variables about each server of interest to
Internet users would also be available for retrieval by those users.

Putting all this together with a 3-D image of each server (as
determined by the object description language currently being discussed
in this mailing list), one can picture a virtual reality Internet
connection, where a VR user would look out at a globe and see each
lat/long equipped site on that globe. Each site which has an object
description would look like that object (glowing and rotating and
animated in whatever form the site manager decides upon). So you would
look out from your humble machine to see the whole Internet spread out
in a globe around you.

The path between the client and the glowing, rotating server could be a
thin, snaking line if there is a slow, labyrinthine network route
between the machines, or a thick, straight-ish line if there is a fast,
direct path. The color(s) of the paths could indicate what kind of
network connection is possible to that server (FTP, WWW, WAIS, VRML,

If we wanted to get a little more artistic, current network connections
to remote machines could appear as fireflies flitting about the
server's 3-D object. A server with a lot of traffic would then give
the impression of being surrounded by fireflies.

Other views of the data would be possible. How would you, personally,
want to view cyberspace? What variables would you find important, and
how would you visualize them? Would the historical number of users be
important? How would it be displayed? Would time-of-day at the
server's lat/long be important? How about the relationships between
hosts with mirrors, NFS mounts, etc? Firewalls? Would there be a
standard symbol for anon-FTP servers? WWW servers? Gopher servers?
What would the "terrain" between servers look like? On the VR globe,
what would other network users look like?

I think we need the lat/long client/server to form the basic grid of
cyberspace. The rest of cyberspace can literally be built on this
foundation. Anyone interested in working with me on this is invited to
drop me a line.

-- Ken Jenks, NASA/JSC/SD5, Space Biomedical Research Institute
kjenks@gothamcity.jsc.nasa.gov (713) 483-4368

"NASA turns dreams into realities and makes science fiction
into fact" -- Daniel S. Goldin, NASA Administrator